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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. “Discursive accents” indicate the genre, style, or medium of a work. This essay likens discursive accents—the low drone in horror film soundtracks, the guitar rock of 1980s television, or the atonality of “new music”—to spoken accents. For, just as listeners to an unfamiliar language often attend to subtleties that go by unnoticed when words’ meanings are clear, listeners to discursive accents may attend to stylistic and generic frictions that might otherwise be swept away in more discursively straightforward works. In works by Animal Charm, Sean Griffin, Paul McCarthy, and Ryan Trecartin, image stabilizes and grounds the work in some discourse—usually just one—whereas discursive accents such as diegetic or nondiegetic sound and music destabilize the work by suggesting multiple discourses. In these moments of generic hybridity and stylistic instability, discursive accents retreat from meaning and exist more as immanent, unintelligible sound.

Keywords: discursive, accents, Trecartin, Griffin, McCarthy, Animal Charm, genre, style

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